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Published: 31 January 2008
Rebecca Hossack outside the Cleveland Kitchen
Rebecca Hossack outside the Cleveland Kitchen
Going walkabout with Rebecca

Australian Aboriginal art collector and gallery boss Rebecca Hossack takes Sara Newman out back in Regent’s Park before tucking into some rewarding Italian cuisine

STEALTHILY sleeping in the basement of the antiquarian bookshop where she worked and washing in the local swimming pool when she first arrived in London, Rebecca Hossack’s fortunes have changed for the better.
The gallery owner and guardian of one of the largest archives of Aboriginal cultural artefacts raised nearly £20,000 after completing the New York marathon last year and gained office as the Conservative councillor for Bloomsbury in 2006.
Before we had lunch, Rebecca strapped a Sat Nav to my wrist and took me for a jog around a well-beaten track in Regents Park’s.
Enthusing over the budding snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses as we passed the old tennis courts and golf club she spoke of her sorrow over the suicide of well-loved tennis coach Yuri Ouvarov, 53, who took his own life close to the club last year.
We also passed the fruits of Rebecca’s fundraising – trees planted by the charity Street Tree – near The Rebecca Hossack Gallery on Conway Street, just off Fitzroy Square.
As a fan of permanence, sustainability and authenticity, it is fitting that her favourite restaurant is the Cleveland Kitchen on Cleveland Street, a brisk, no-nonsense family-run business serving genuine Italian food.
Owner Luca Bruno also runs a coffee shop on the corner of Fitzroy Street called Fitzroy Café.
We sat at a rickety old table. My tuna carpaccio, which came with a simply dressed rocket salad, was delicate and fresh.
Rebecca’s cured wild boar was also skilfully sliced but was a good deal darker and tasted muskier.
Ever the adventurer, Rebecca opted for the deer ragout for her main course. I chose linguine and clams, which was deliciously fresh and wholesome.
Rebecca was brought up in Melbourne, Australia, the oldest of four sisters, in an extension at the back of her Grandma’s home.
Her father, like his Glaswegian father, left school at 14 and found work in a local factory.
A much older woman who worked in the accounts department became his patron and, so the story goes, funded his aspirations to become a doctor.
Rebecca’s own good fortune also has something of the fairytale about it.
Opening her first gallery on Windmill Street in 1988 with a bank loan “the same day the recession hit” she endured five years of sleepless nights.
“One day I was scrubbing the steps when I looked up and there was a man wearing tracksuit bottoms and a sweater and we started talking about Aboriginal art,” Rebecca said.
He turned out to be Donald Khan, one of Australia’s key collectors of Aboriginal art, and a major client of Rebecca’s.
She has raised the profile of many Aboriginal artists including Jimmy Pike and Queenie McKenzie.
Given her stance in favour of public space and opposition to ­corporatism it seems baffling as to why she might have chosen to stand as a Conservative.
But beaten paths, abhorrence for ponce, disdain at PR spin, multinational corporations, health and safety and her activist sympathies aside (she subscribes to anti-establishment publication Resurgence) Rebecca holds dear “small c” conservative principles.
While she agreed that some people do need help, she added: “It doesn’t make people happy to ask ‘why can’t they do this for me?’ Everyone should do as much as they can.”
Whether or not it is privilege, luck or pure hard graft that has inspired her viewpoint, Rebecca imagines that everyone can have her joie de vivre.

• Cleveland Kitchen, 145 Cleveland Street, W1.
020 7387 5966

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